"Amelia Earhardt, Jimmy Hoffa, and my Sony Cybershot."
"I don't know where it went...it was right here on the floor of the car, right here by the maps... I don't know where it is...it's not in my purse... I don't know. I just had it..."
That's all I could say to Ron
when he asked me to produce the camera at the pet cemetery.
Oh no, dear God, no.
Not my sweet, beloved Sony Cybershot -- lost.
Where the hell it is at this exact moment, I have no idea
I have a Sony Cybershot-shaped hole in my soul right now.
What's left of my tattered, blistered soul anyhow. Boohoo.
Maybe I kicked it out of the car when I got out,
I told him, at that estate sale at Rosemark.
Ron scrunched his face up at me and said.
"How do you kick a camera out and not know you kicked it out?"
A virgin, I thought, to shit luck and certain disaster.
I scrunched my face back at him.
"What do you mean, how? When you drag a dead leg out
of a Honda parked in a ditch on the side of a hill,
all you can think of while you are doing it is,
'don't fall over, don't fall over, don't fall over',
and it's really easy to lose focus."
That was the most beautiful house I have seen in a long, long while.
(I'd show you a photo, but y'know, no.)
Two-story and grand, with a green, winding staircase
running up the center as its twisted, green-planked spine.
But the house was damp, past stone-cold,
and the wooden floor felt spongey under me,
worn Oriental rugs obviously triaging a crisis together.
I had a nightmare a few weeks ago about a beautiful, rotting house
almost just like this. Remembering this blindly,
I chose my path carefully and hoped to God
I wasn't the first to fall through the floor into the spidery basement.
Not today. We're going for catfish, so I hear.
This house had to be a truly gorgeous thing
at its prime about 100-something years ago.
But now, it was comprised mainly of softened white beadboard
and a glowing blue-green, mutant, pulsing, jelly-like substance that
only I could see with my x-ray vision,
thriving and multiplying and teeming
in the cracks of the solid plaster walls yet aching 2 x 4s.
From the smell of the dampened wallpaper,
I'd have to guess this surely toxic mold
feasted and mutated over the years,
drawing its surely toxic strength
from a steady supply of mentholed, nicotine fumes.
"That's what got her, " I thought. "That poor, sweet thing."
Ok. Not everyone who dies is a sweet person. I just assume they are, in my mind. That's the first thing I think of when I go to an estate sale: Who died last, the husband or the wife? How did they go? Are they still alive, convalescing in a home? Maybe this is a good thing.
Painting ceramics. Playing cards. Thinking good thoughts.
Then that usually depresses me, so I assume the best and hope they both just moved to the country where they are quietly raising goats together in a smaller, more manageable house, one with solid floors and new walls, and things like that.
Looking around, I didn't see many things
that belonged to a man anymore.
Mostly, in the front rooms,
I'd seen pairs and pairs and pairs of white gloves
with tiny tea stains,
and afghans, and tiny size 5 1/2 shoes,
and Christmas ornaments and
carefully crocheted "women-stuff."
Mostly pink things embellished
with rhinestones whose silvering had eventually worn away
and turned to clear glass instead
held down with dulled, metal claws.
"But pink is pink; pink is cheery."
I recite to myself over and over and keep walking,
like whistling in the dark.
I weaved around to the kitchen because
that's where I always end up
especially in these houses.
That's the heart of a home to me anyway.
I searched the refrigerator for a pulse.
There were a bunch of magnets,
mostly from a propane delivery service,
with nothing under them anymore,
a coloring book page
was hanging on the front of the refrigerator
with "We love you, Nani, me and jeff too"
and a bird scribbled in with blue circles,
a cloud scribbled in with brown,
and only one photo left of a tanned grandfather kissing the cheek
of a wide-eyed grandchild in her Easter dress.
She had no idea, but he did.
The photo had a digital imprint in the bottom-right corner dated 2003.
"Someone really liked chickens,"
Hannah said as she poked a glass rooster in the beak.
"My grandmother collected glass hens and chickens like this," I told her, taking up for the weird chicken obsession with little or no explanation best I could, "I have no idea why. Must've been the thing to do at the time, I guess."
Then I wondered what people would be saying about my crap
if and when it were up for sale one day.
"How many cameras does a person need?" they'd ask.
"Would you take 25 cents for this cup full of rosaries?"
"Who's 'ELO' and 'Pete Shelley'?"
"Is this a voodoo doll?"
"I love this house!" Mamie breathlessly mouthed to me,
as she easily bounced the floorboards in the foyer,
rattling and pinging the sitting room windows
enough to make me see broken windowpanes and spiders.
I could see in her eyes that she'd already rennovated this place
from the peeling, gingerbread eaves to the ooey, gooey basement.
"Only $134,000," I said, taking a flyer from the bookcase
moved temporarily to the porch. Temporarily. I hope.
Back in the Honda on the hill,
"My sinuses are goin' crazy now...are yours bothering you?"
Ron asked, pinching the bridge of his nose and twisting his face up a bit.
Mamie said, "Yeah, I can't breathe now. I took my Claritin-Ds
this morning and should be spittin' cottonballs by now.
Think it was that house? I could fix that house."
"Oh, ya think? All I can taste is old books and musty mousetraps now," I said, "Yeah, it's definitely the house. But damn, wasn't it beautiful?"
"Yeahhhh, it was beautiful," she sighed, a million miles away.
"I could do things with that house. That is a crime how they've let it go.
I just loved those bouncy floors!"
There ya go, I thought. That's the spirit - true optimism. Never give up and never say die. And, you're crazy. But it's that rare, good caliber of crazy that I admire. Not that garden variety howling freakshow crazy or other.
Speaking of: My camera, my camera, my camera...
To put this into perspective, I lost my job the other day, and not one tear. But last night, I cried my eyes out over my poor, lost Sony. Thank God I'd transferred all the photos from it the day before. Honestly, thank you, God. Oh, and thank you for all that other stuff, too.
"Who wants to go to the pet cemetery?"
"Me me meeee," Hannah kicked the back of Ron's carseat. "Wait. Why are we going to the pet cemetery," it dawned on her after the words "cool" and "cemetery" vaporized from her fresh, non-toxic, bouncy little mind.
"So I can take a picture of Kitty Kat...'s garden."
Ron didn't feel like explaining cremation to Hannah.
"Oh. Ok. And after that, catfish," she said.